Ten Questions People Frequently Ask Sam
1. What immediate actions can city council take to aid in curbing the violent crime occurring in Atlanta?
I believe a large degree of the violent crime stems from “gang mentality” and street gang activities. In Chester, PA, the police department runs a Neighborhood Safer program. Violent crime dropped significantly when gang members were offered “carrots” like rental assistance, free technical school programs and mental health services. The Atlanta City Council should direct APD to begin interacting and deploying similar tactics with local gang members and holding summits with them.
2. Will you make affordable housing a priority of your term on the council, and what actions need to be taking to insure meeting the goal of 20,000 affordable homes by 2026?
I will make affordable housing a priority and promote the following actions:
- Champion good policy like inclusionary zoning and make it more incentive based for new affordable housing
- Reduce bureaucracy that increases costs and stifles construction (fast track affordable housing developments)
- Support use of city owned land to provide affordable housing
One organization that I have tremendous experience with is the Metro Atlanta Land Bank Authority. The power vested in the LBA should be expanded and funded in a more deliberate way. Ultimately, who controls the land controls what happens on that land.
3. Will transit on the Atlanta BeltLine corridor be a top priority and how will you work fast-track it?
We will need transit as a top priority to promote greater density to ensure affordable housing is provided along the BeltLine. With transit, developers can build more economically by reducing parking needs as an example. To fast-track it, we should expand Mixed-Use Trail Special Service District funding to include light rail to raise enough money for federal matching dollars.
4. What can the council do to prioritize combatting climate change?
The city should re-examine steps taken in its Climate Action Plan to do even better at reducing the carbon output. We must require builders and owners to use LED lighting, continuous insulation, recycled content and building materials, water catchment and renewable energies with smart monitors. We must continue to invest in fleets away from fossil fuels that run off alternatives like electricity. We should also create incentives in credits and rebates that encourage investment in vehicles that run off renewable energies.
Public outreach is the foundation upon which the CAP rests. I will champion continued public engagement as the implementation process moves forward.
5. What are three issues specifically affecting District 5 that you plan to address while on council?
As a dynamic, vibrant part of the city, District 5 will continue to attract new capital and people. Important issues will be how do we balance that growth to protect neighborhood cultures, improve supportive infrastructure and make room for more people.
6. To what extent should zoning and land use patterns in single-family only neighborhoods change to accommodate more residents?
“Gentle” density seems to be the best way to reach middle ground, but change must come. The status quo is unacceptable, and I hear that from both sides of the issue and even those that do not have a strong position.
7. What strategies would you implement to protect residents from being displaced from their communities, as housing prices continue to rise, and evictions moratoriums expire?
I would support expanding our homestead exemption. This could apply in impoverished neighborhoods greatly impacted by rapidly rising valuations due to new neighborhood development. I would like to spend considerable time trying to replicate the program in the Vine City/English Avenue area which uses philanthropic dollars. I would support a new development/anti-displacement impact fee that is assessed on new, larger commercial developments. Other funding possibilities are financing a fund with fines and fees — plus grants from private foundations and charities or creating a "tenant legal assistance special fund" financed by a fee charged to corporate landlords when they file for an eviction.
8. As we emerge from the pandemic, what are the major challenges facing the City for economic recovery?
Although businesses are the engines of the economy, local government creates the environment and structure that enable enterprise to flourish. How we create and shape the environment for economic recovery—and the opportunities and challenges they face in doing so—will depend on two decisions we make about our approach.
Atlanta may make different choices when prioritizing between preservation of existing businesses and net new creation. We need to evaluate and deploy a combination of the following interventions to support economic recovery:
- Increasing investment
- Increasing revenue
- Reducing cost
- Encouraging innovation
- Supporting workforce readiness
9. Trust in the City’s service delivery and responsiveness is waning. What steps would you champion to address core service functions to restore public trust and improve quality of life for citizens and businesses in Atlanta?
I believe the most important way to address trust issues in City service delivery is assuring a reliable and equitable delivery of services. This eliminates many barriers to strong economic growth, help sustain poverty reduction and help us forge ahead as a resilient city.
Ensuring trusted service delivery is not just a matter of greater resources but requires the City and development partners to:
- prioritize spending where it is needed the most and make sure that financial resources reach frontline service delivery facilities where services are actually provided to Atlanta citizen;
- improve capacity and coordination at different levels of city government to increase efficiency, equity, and sustainability of public service provision;
- ensure frontline service providers are responsive and accountable to the communities they serve;
- monitor and motivate public workers to ensure that they achieve results;
- and create alliances between public and private sectors and involve providers outside public sector to unlock creativity and competitive advantage of the private sector.
10. What are your views on Buckhead cityhood movement? What actions will you take related to this movement?
I certainly don’t want to see a balkanization of our geography. It would do irreparable harm to the City’s reputation for business and our ability to finance and deliver future services. Even with appropriate accounting for sharing of liabilities, the City of Atlanta would face challenges satisfying its share of the nearly $3 billion of existing liabilities and unfunded pension obligations.
I would engage “hard and diplomatically” with the proponents of the Buckhead City Movement. Their concerns seem to focus on improving city services and combating crime. I believe everyone who loves Atlanta wants those same things. Collectively, our city leaders need to address the fears and frustrations of the proponents with authenticity, empathy and understanding. Then, we need to address the concerns in Buckhead through strategic execution of an actionable plan.